Ester Marsh: Therapy after knee replacement

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 8, 2023

First of all, Happy Easter!

Two of my Esterettes, and dear friends, both just had knee replacement surgery in the past 3 to 4 months. Both are star patients and are doing amazing after their replacements. Both have been dealing with knee issues for years and tried everything to keep themselves going. Being in great shape before their replacements really helped them with the recovery after. When you are dealing with bad joints, try to do everything else like physical therapy, exercise, eating healthy and losing weight (if needed) before you jump into any replacement.

Too many times, I see people who have joint replacements not doing therapy, and their surgery isn’t as successful as it could be. Your doctor can put in a beautiful new joint but if you are not willing to do the exercises they prescribe, that joint will not be as good as it could be. And you can’t blame the doctor when this happens.

I know that both of my Esterettes are their doctors’ poster children! After you receive a new joint at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center they put you in a great program called “joint camp” where they work specifically on things you need to do to make your surgery successful. But if you stop doing the specific exercises they instructed for you to do, within a pretty short amount of time you will feel your range of motion in your knee joint disappear. When you go back to your doctor and you are experiencing stiffness or pain, they will ask if you have been doing your exercises.

We have to take ownership of our own health. Your doctor or physical therapist doesn’t just give you homework to annoy you, they know to make a joint replacement successful. If you don’t, your knee might “freeze up,” and your doctor may have to go back in and manipulate your knee (under anesthesia) to break up the scar tissue. And typically your knee will never be as good as it could have been if you did your exercises.

You may think you don’t have time for the exercises. My answer: How come you find time to go out to eat but don’t find time to better your health? If you shy away from the exercises because they hurt, typically it will be painful in the beginning. Your doctor and physical therapist will teach you to differentiate between a pain that is supposed to be there and pain that happens when you are pushing too hard. Most of the time, it’s a different pain than you had before the replacement. With time and the correct therapy/exercise plan, you will be as good as new with your “bionic” knee or joint! All the exercises they prescribe to you should become part of your daily workout routine. The better you listen to your doctor or therapist and do the exercises you need to be doing the sooner you will feel great!

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA.